By Caridad Pineiro
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Near the entrance to one home she had caught sight of a young woman twisting cotton and other fibers onto a stick while nearby an older woman, probably her mother, used a clay spindle whorl of brightly colored thread to make fabric on a small loom. At the zocalo, a few villagers had also been gathering water in large earthenware jugs, while another group of men sat playing a board game. They had shot her uneasy glances as she filled her canteen and Dani’s, but she had given them a smile and wished them good-night in Nahuatl, which somehow seemed to break past their reticence.
The hillsides of the valley had been cleared of the thick jungle vegetation and planted using terraces cut into the ridges to increase the arable land and prevent mudslides during the rainy season. The practice was one the ancient Aztecs had used successfully centuries earlier. To the farthest side of the village spread a flat area that had been cleared for sporting events. A rectangular field of packed dirt had two large stone rings at either end. A group of boys was kicking around a soccer ball, and as Cynthia watched, one of them sent the ball sailing through the stone ring.
Neither the guides nor any of the villagers would dare to enter la selva del Diablo—the Devil’s Jungle. Cynthia and her team members would venture into that area in the morning, hopefully with a better outcome than that of Rafe’s team. They had planned more cautiously and with safety in mind given the disappearance of their colleagues. Maybe even possibly due to Cordero’s admonishments about the demon. Part of that prudent preparation included taking additional satellite phones together with a compact shortwave radio in case of any emergencies.